Responses to desiccation in four Coleopterans from sub-Antarctic South Georgia
Rates of water loss were determined for four Coleoptera species: the herbivores Hydromedion sparsutum, Perimylops antarcticus (Family Perimylopidae) and the carnivores Trechisibus antarcticus, Oopterus soledadinus (Family Carabidae) collected during summer from a range of terrestrial habitats at South Georgia. A recording microbalance enabled measurement of individual weight loss with time in <5% r.h. at 10, 20, 30 and 35°C. Adults of T. antarcticus had significantly higher rates of water loss than any other species over all temperatures. Individuals of both herbivores exhibited the slowest water loss rates under the experimental conditions. Within species, rates at 10 or 20°C were slower than at the higher temperatures. Adult P. antarcticus had significantly greater amounts of body water than adult H. sparsutum for each of the four temperatures. Within species and life-stages of both herbivores, body water contents after drying at 10°C were significantly lower than individuals dried at 30–35°C, but no such differences were observed for the carnivores. At each temperature, rates of water loss were negatively correlated with initial live weight in all four species, but this was not the case within species or between adults and larvae. Maximum survival times during desiccation declined as temperature increased, but did not differ between species at 10°C. Over 30–35°C, survival times of both herbivores were significantly longer than either of the carnivores. Smaller insects (e.g. the carabids) had faster rates of water loss than the larger perimylopids under the same environmental conditions. The latter had greater resistance to desiccation than the former. It is suggested that the larger body water content of P. antarcticus enables it to resist desiccation more than the other three species, which correlates with its ecological distribution. Differences in water contents after drying individuals at low and high temperatures may be caused either by the water binding properties of cells and tissues or by reduction in energy stores in order to maintain metabolism at lower environmental temperatures causing a body weight loss. Whilst both herbivores show some physiological adaptations to drying conditions, it is suggested that the two carnivorous beetles may have adapted behaviourally to the South Georgia environment.